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August 2015
One Bad Berry Can Ruin a Whole Batch

Tom Hogue  September 2015

Well you guessed it, it’s that time once again. Raspberry, blackberry, and Japanese wineberry picking on our estate for the wine we enjoy giving to our clients and friends. Of course, I’m never quite as fast as my wife in these efforts but I do my best to keep pace, diligently picking berry after berry.

All this while sweating profusely and fighting off the gnats and ticks and other strange bugs. We wear full length blue jeans and long sleeve shirts to protect against those ornery thorns that fight to keep ahold of their juicy prize, the berries nestled beneath. And talk about sweating in the July sweltering heat! My wife and I both lose a lot of weight that helps us to (almost) get back into bathing suit shape.

Of course, we get to socialize and bond more than usual because I’m not focused on work and she’s not face-timing her sister. It’s just the two of us talking about life. And because Rachelle is the expert, she coaches me on some techniques. This is where I learned that one bad berry can ruin a whole pint, and that I shouldn’t bother to pick those that are withered, mushy, or not yet ripe.


You see, I thought we would just wash them off for now, throw them in the freezer, sort them out later, and begin the winemaking process after a period of time. But letting that bad berry in a frozen baggie with the others will ruin them. And all of that effort in the sweltering heat would’ve been for nothing, and any wine making attempt would result in bitter wine.


Of course, the analogies to business and life with that one statement are endless. One bad berry, or employee, in the workplace can ruin a company culture; and one bad friend can gossip and ruin relationships.


The trick is to become much better at quickly identifying a bad berry or a bad relationship. An employee might appear on the surface to be a good person but later reveal their true colors. Sometimes it’s a little harder to recognize a conniving, dishonest, disloyal, or just downright bad employee who is not a cultural fit for company with a strong core values.


Sometimes it’s not as easy to see their discoloration or squishy interior, as it is to see the bad exterior of some berries. But it’s extremely important to develop that awareness and be quicker to act on it.


I’m not talking about an under-ripe berry, that can continue ripening even after it has been picked. In that case it may be an employee or friend that just needs coaching and has the best intentions to develop into a good person.


I’m talking about the outright bad berry that must be simply thrown away. There is literally no use for it other than to feed the vermin and insects that crawl the ground. Even the deer won’t eat a rotten berry.


So, with many years of owning a business, the experience is finally starting to come to me quicker. I am better at recognizing those berries that are bad and discarding them, rather than allowing them to fester and ruin the rest of the bunch.


So all you good business people out there, please let me remind you: one bad berry can ruin the whole batch!

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